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This just in…

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

* 2:24 pm - House Speaker Michael Madigan has just informed the House that he will call them into session beyond tomorrow’s scheduled adjournment if the Senate passes the constitutional amendment for recall on Thursday. Members are wondering if they need to be in town before the final 3rd Reading vote. It appears, of course, that they do.

Madigan was asked whether he would propose any amendments to the Senate proposal. He said he didn’t plan to do so, but he didn’t know what the sponsor - who will likely be Rep. Jack Franks - will do.

Madigan pointed out that if this proposed constitutional amendment is amended in the House, then it would have to be read three times in each chamber again. Sunday is the deadline to get the measure on the November ballot.

*** 2:25 pm *** Madigan was just asked by Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) why this proposal has become such a high priority. Madigan replied that, at least among House members, “This has become such a priority because of Governor Blagojevich.”

Ouch.

* 2:39 pm - Rep. Jack Franks spoke to reporters a short time ago about the Senate’s recall proposal, which he calls “a better bill” than his own. He said he won’t amend the bill. Here’s the audio….

[If the audio player isn’t working for you, click here to download the mp3 file.]

* 2:43 pm - John Patterson at the Daily Herald no longer has a “bloggy type thing.” He’s got a real blog now with comments and everything. His latest post

A “deal” on what supporters call major ethics legislation was supposed to be announced at 1 p.m. at the Capitol. But that announcement has now been pushed back to 4:30 p.m.

Some Republican supporters weren’t informed of the delay by the Democrats — who run the show in Springfield.

The GOP’s initial reaction was not a positive one.

Now the question is whether the delay is procedural or fatal.

…Adding… Rep. Fritchey just said that the ethics deal is still a deal. He’ll be holding a press conference with Sen. Harmon, House GOP Leader Cross and others at 4:30 this afternoon. The 1 pm press conference unveiling the deal was delayed so Fritchey could make extra sure that the deal was really a deal.

* 3:03 pm - The SJ-R has more

Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said details of the ethics package wil be released later today.

He described the latest version as taking the best elements of separate House and Senate proposals that were both aimed at banning campaign contributions from contractors who do business with the state.

* 3:26 pm - With about an hour to go before the press conference, negotiators are still “tweaking” the compromise ethics bill. So, things could still go wrong, but the train appears mostly on track.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


A complete lack of trust

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

* One thing I hear a lot from the governor’s allies and flaks is, “I don’t know why you don’t trust us.” I usually just chuckle and walk away, but they do need to be reminded of the depth of mistrust they sow on an almost hourly basis

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a mass transit funding law that promised more money for downstate bus and public transportation systems.

They are still waiting on the money.

As part of the Chicago transit bailout law approved in January, lawmakers also threw in $50 million in new funding for downstate systems with the goal of boosting the amount the state reimburses them for expenses from 55 percent to 65 percent.

The increase would allow some existing downstate transit systems to expand their routes and services and would enable other communities to create new systems in areas that aren’t served by public transportation. […]

When asked on Tuesday about the status of the proposed funding, Katherine Ridgway, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s Office of Management and Budget, would only say the administration is reviewing the numbers.

* The Blagojevich administration has been pulling stuff like this since Day One. Last year wasn’t the first time a budget deal was broken. Blagojevich broke one in the summer of 2003 - his first year in office. The governor negotiated and agreed to a budget and then vetoed out a bunch of stuff after the GA had passed the legislation and left town.

It’s been all downhill since then.

* The big issue now is the capital plan. Last year, the governor vetoed almost all House Democratic line items from the budget, and, as you are well aware, the Senate refused to override the vetoes. Now, the governor believes that the House Dems should just trust him to sign a capital bill without changes and distribute the funds in an even-handed manner.

“Oh, sure we’ll do it,” they always say, with a dismissive wave of the hand. “He’ll have our word.”

And that word means what, exactly?

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


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Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Ozinga claims to raise big bucks

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

* This first bit isn’t huge news because he’s had a virtual lock on the slot for weeks


Martin Ozinga III will end weeks of speculation and officially kick off his campaign at 11:30 a.m. today as the Republican candidate in the 11th Congressional District.

* But a new e-mail from Ozinga’s campaign is interesting…

Marty Ozinga announced today, 4/30, that he has raised $408,235 from nearly 300 contributors since he began raising money at the beginning of April. The total above does not reflect any personal contributions made by Marty himself.

* Early fundraising is usually the easiest because the cash is often from friends and family. We also don’t know how many of those early conributors maxed out, and, therefore, will not be allowed to contribute again.

* Halvorson has been raising money as well…

From Jan. 17 through the end of March, Halvorson raised a net $432,970 and ended the period with cash reserves of $673,023.

Ozinga has said that he won’t put in more than $350,000 of his own cash, beyond that level would allow his opponent Debbie Halvorson to accept larger campaign checks.

…Adding… There’s some useful info in this Associated Press story

“My life, both in work and in community and in my family, is all based on a simple philosophical foundation that I exist first of all to honor and glorify God and then secondly to serve the crown of his creation which is our fellow man,” Ozinga said. […]

On the issues, Ozinga said he opposes raising taxes and supports President Bush’s tax cuts. With motorists besieged by skyrocketing gasoline prices, Ozinga said the country needs to work hard at promoting the research and development of alternative energy sources, everything from nuclear power to clean coal technology.

He calls the Iraq war “a frustration and a disappointment that we’ve been there for so long.” He said there needs to be timelines for the Iraqi government to show improvement, but not timetables for what the American military does in that country.

“I would bring the troops home when we win, meaning when we accomplish our … goals,” Ozinga said, adding he would rely on the advice of military commanders there.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Video Competition in Illinois Has Already Created More Than 1,400 New AT&T Jobs

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

AT&T has been introducing its cable alternative, a cutting-edge service called U-verse, in parts of Illinois since January. Thanks to the support of Attorney General Madigan and General Assembly members who fought for the Cable and Video Competition Law, consumers in Illinois are beginning to enjoy the benefits of competition.

Senator Clayborne and Representative Brosnahan sponsored this because people were tired of annual rate increases and poor customer service with few alternatives. They, along with Senate President Jones and House Speaker Madigan, understood this was an important vote for our consumers and our economy

Since it was signed by Governor Blagojevich on June 30, 2007, AT&T has created more than 1,400 Illinois jobs related to U-verse’s rollout. They have also started on a more than $1.3 billion investment plan in its Illinois network over the next several years to bring new services, including state-of-the-art television, to consumers. AT&T has consistently rolled out new services to as many customers as possible - as quickly as possible. AT&T is working hard to deliver on that promise with U-verse, which is currently available in parts of more than 230 communities.

This legislative collaboration is convincing evidence that the public and the private sector can create a framework that encourages investment and innovation at a time when our economy can certainly use a boost.

AT&T has clearly demonstrated it’s committed to connecting people to their world. These connections are made possible thanks to elected officials who’ve created a new era of opportunity in Illinois.


More info here.

- Posted by Capitol Fax Blog Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   88 Comments      


Here we go…

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

* The push is on

The leader of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority said Tuesday that the agency has solved a seemingly intractable puzzle: How to purchase and renovate Wrigley Field without using any state or local tax dollars.

“We are working on a proposal to present to Tribune Co. that will allow ISFA to acquire and fully restore Wrigley Field, as well as add parking and neighborhood improvements, without using any public tax money, either state or local,” said former Gov. James Thompson, chairman of the agency.

The bid will be delivered “shortly,” Thompson said.

* So, how will it be financed?

[Thompson] would only say what the new plan would not include: “No PSLs [personal seat licenses] . . . No sales tax. No amusement tax. No McCormick Place [restaurant] tax. No taxes of any kind. I know that will disappoint the Sun-Times editorial board. But it’s the best I can do,” he said.

“Obviously, a deal done without tax money has a better chance of being approved than a deal based on tax money. Now the Sun-Times editorial board will be for it, right?”

Even if no tax money is directly used, the impact on state and local tax coffers should also be examined. Zell is a financial wizard when it comes to taxes and Mother Tribune is no slouch either. Will this involve some sort of tax break for Zell?

* Thompson did offer this hint

Thompson hesitated when asked if his new plan would rely on the controversial sale of naming rights to the 94-year-old shrine of Major League Baseball.

Tribune CEO Sam Zell’s plan to sell naming rights to Wrigley to generate as much as $400 million over 20 years has met with stiff resistance from baseball purists and die-hard Cub fans. “I would say yes. But we would look for a naming rights deal that does not displace Wrigley Field.'’

I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but there will be a real problem convincing legislators to vote for a bill that would change the name or look of Wrigley Field.

* Thompson wouldn’t say how much the state would offer to pay for the decrepit ball park, but he did manage an Olympics tie-in, which is something that everybody is doing in Chicago these days…

Getting a deal done “will show the Olympic committee that we know how to do these things in Chicago,” [Thompson] said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Recall Roundup

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

* I live-blogged this yesterday, so let’s do a quick wrap-up of what we already know and move from there

Senate Democrats on Tuesday advanced their own version of a proposal to let voters remove the governor and other elected officials, a move critics said was aimed at throwing the recall effort off track by running out the clock.

The competing Senate recall legislation would add local officials such as judges, mayors and county board presidents to the public servants who could be booted.

It also would require both the governor and lieutenant governor to be recalled together rather than just one or the other. That’s because they run together as a team in general elections, said Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago), the new plan’s architect.

* Quinn’s reaction

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Blagojevich critic and a strong proponent of the recall measure, criticized that provision in committee testimony. “I don’t believe I should have my record judged'’ based on the governor’s record, Quinn said. But he supported the measure anyway, calling it “a moment in history'’ for Illinois.

* There’s no guarantee yet that this will pass

All 22 Senate Republicans figure to support the plan. But the question will be if or how hard Jones works to keep at least 14 of his members off the ballot initiative to keep it from getting the necessary 36 votes to move to the House.

* And there’s also a disagreement on when Gov. Blagojevich might be recalled if the voters approve it in November…

…the soonest Blagojevich could be recalled would be the 2010 primary, said Sen. Dan Cronin (R-Elmhurst), the amendment’s chief Senate sponsor.

Quinn, however, said a gubernatorial recall could occur as early as “late summer or early fall” of next year.

* There is some hope among Blagojevich allies that this recall proposal might lance the boil and stop or slow talk of impeachment, and Quinn seems to be helping that along

Despite allegations of potential wrongdoing, it’s too early to launch impeachment proceedings against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, his running mate said Tuesday.

As talk of impeachment echoes through the Statehouse, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said he’d rather see the state Senate give voters the opportunity to recall elected officials.

“I think its time to trust the people,” Quinn said.

* On a related note, Michigan has a recall law, and some angry voters in that troubled state are raising money and organizing to recall the House Speaker and other state legislators….

A group aiming to recall state lawmakers for approving tax increases reports raising more than $100,000 since late October.

The recall effort recently has focused on House Speaker Andy Dillon, a Democrat from Wayne County’s Redford Township.

* There’s also a recall move against Detroit’s mayor

Wayne County officials approved language for a recall campaign against Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, green-lighting the second effort to oust him since the $8.4 million whistle-blower scandal broke this year.

* The Senate’s somewhat about-face on recall was due in no small part to exploding voter anger. And that helps explain why a constitutional amendment to do away with the state’s flat-tax mandate failed so miserably yesterday. Here are a bunch of stories on that front…

* Illinois Senate rejects sliding income tax proposal

* Legislators reject possible tax overhaul

* Senate rejects income tax amendment

* Senate Dems Chicken Out on Income Tax Hike Measure

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Witness: Rezko shared cash with Blagojevich

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

* Take some caution with this one

Tony Rezko asked an official in Gov. Blagojevich’s administration to pay him $25,000 so Rezko could use the money to keep construction contractors from putting a lien on the governor’s home, federal prosecutors said in court today.

Prosecutors got a judge’s OK for Ali Ata — former executive director of the Illinois Finance Authority — to be allowed to tell jurors in Rezko’s corruption trial about the cash payments.

Rezko told Ata “this is going to be embarrassing to him [Blagojevich]” if the contractors put a lien on Blagojevich’s Ravenswood Manor home, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton told U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve.

* The reasons you should be careful about assuming too much are several-fold, including this one

“Ata claims that he gave or lent cash to Rezko on four or five occasions . . . and estimates the total cash disbursements amounted to $125,000,” Rezko’s lawyers wrote. “Ata alternatively stated he did not know what the cash was for, then proceeds to say he supplied $25,000 in cash to pay certain contractors who were threatening to put a lien on another individual’s [Blagojevich’s] home.

“Ata recounted these alleged cash transactions in a suspiciously dramatic way, including meetings on ‘narrow streets’ in Chicago with ‘black plastic bags’ of cash.”

First, this is Tony Rezko allegedly telling Ata why he wanted the money. We don’t know if Rezko told the truth to Ata or if Ata concocted the story to help hi stay out of prison. And even if Rezko did tell the truth, there’s no guarantee that Blagojevich knew about it.

* But the judge will allow the testimony…

[Judge St. Eve] said such testimony was relevant because it showed the relations between Ata, Rezko and Kelly.

She did bar the prosecutors, however, from bringing in such atmospheric embellishments as “black plastic bags” and “narrow streets.”

* And, of course, there’s more

Prosecutors said Ata will say Rezko extracted four bribes from him, including the one to avert the lien. Another involved a $50,000 payment that Rezko allegedly said was destined for Blagojevich fundraiser Chris Kelly.

Ata said the money was passed in cloak-and-dagger fashion as he and Rezko drove to Kelly’s house in the southwest suburbs. “The cash is in the car when they go down there,” Hamilton said. “And when they leave Mr. Kelly’s house, the money isn’t there any more.”

Kelly, who faces criminal charges in an unrelated case, denied the allegations through his lawyer. “If Mr. Ata is saying he gave large amounts of cash to Mr. Kelly for political purposes or to get some state position, that is simply incorrect,” said Michael Monico, Kelly’s attorney.

Notice there was no denial that Kelly might have received cash for other purposes.

* And the governor’s statement

“We can’t comment on alleged conversations that the governor was not a party to,” spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said today. “As we said last year, the Blagojeviches personally paid for the work to renovate their 14-by-20 family room out of their checking account.”

Man, this is crazy stuff.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

* State may sue school in sex harassment case

An order by the state Human Rights Commission paves the way for Attorney General Lisa Madigan to sue Loop Lab School for $40,000 that the school and a former official owe an ex-teacher who was sexually harassed on the job.

* Option 5: Garfield Park

* NIU won’t raze Cole Hall

* 450 U of I Extension jobs on the chopping block

“If I lose my job, I’ll lose a job I love, and very few people can really say that and mean it,” Nelson said. “I am angry and upset that what’s happening politically is affecting my personal career choices and my personal passion.”

* Parking cops on booting binge

At least 1,500 more parking ticket scofflaws and red-light runners have had their vehicles booted — and 12,000 more Chicago parking tickets have been written — in the first three months of a $1.5 million technology upgrade.

* Cook County Realtor hired by Stroger demoted after questions of his qualifications

* Stroger to skip Palatine secession meeting

Citing “political grandstanding by village council members,” Cook County Board President Todd Stroger said Tuesday he would not attend a meeting in Palatine on Wednesday night scheduled to discuss county services provided to residents.

* No-show Stroger’s disdain for suburbs

* Cook Co.’s public defender fights to keep his position

* Media take R. Kelly appeal to Illinois Supreme Court

* City receives $153M in federal funds for traffic

* ID law disenfranchises voters

* Medill’s dean says he made a mistake

* Fremd High takes top honors in state journalism competition

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   10 Comments      


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Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


this just in…

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* 4:45 pm - The Senate Dems have come up with their own recall proposal. SJRCA 70 adds judges and local officials to the pool of recallable politicos. That’s considered a poison pill. Senate Exec is meeting at 5:30 to take up the proposal and then the full Senate will reconvene tonight.

Also today, a con amend proposal to do away with the flat rate income tax received just 19 votes in the Senate. And another con amend in the House to change redistricting passed by a large margin.

*** 4:56 pm *** Also in the Senate’s recall proposal is a provision that would tie the Lt Governor’s fate to the guv So if the guv is recalled Pat Quinn would go down with him. Ouch.

*** 5:33 pm *** Oh this is rich. The SDems have attached this con amend to a bill that’s on first reading. Bottom line is even if it passes it’s highly unlikely if not downright impossible to pass this in the House by the final deadline. So this proposal is purely an empty gesture. They get to vote on something that will never be on the ballot.

*** 5:54 pm *** HOLD EVERYTHING *** A spokesman for Speaker Madigan just said that the House is prepared to stay in session to get this Senate constitutional amendment on the ballot if the Senate passes this SJRCA in a timely manner.

In other words, the bluff has been called.

*** 6:18 pm *** LG Quinn just said that this was a “good” proposal.

*** 6:35 pm *** SJRCA 70 Amendment 1 passed SExec 12-1. Pres. jones was the only no. The full Senate will now reconvene and vote on the amendment to the con amendment. tonight tomorrow.

*** 7:07pm *** If this does pass the Senate Thursday, the House apparently will have to pass it “as is.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


No comment

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* I just don’t know what to say about this

“Weird Al” Yankovic and Huey Lewis & the News will perform at the 2008 Illinois State Fair, according to the performers’ Web sites, and the Grandstand lineup will be confirmed Thursday.

Yankovic is scheduled to perform Saturday, Aug. 9, and Lewis on Sunday, Aug. 10. The Web sites say only that the performances will be at the fairgrounds, but these probably will be Grandstand shows.

Words fail me.

- Posted by Rich Miller   64 Comments      


Must-See Video

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* Click on the pic to see how a St. Louis TV reporter learns firsthand the occupational hazards of covering Gov. Rod Blagojevich…

Watch your step, dude.

…Adding… The governor’s office claims Blagojevich took questions from reporters during that St. Louis-area visit for 20 minutes and the above reporter never asked his question.

It still makes me chuckle because I know the feeling the story evokes, even if the piece itself is possibly disingenuous.

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* As I’ve told you before, the Illinois Constitution lays down no set parameters for impeachment, except that it requires 60 votes in the House. But if someone is impeached they then proceed to an eventual trial in the Senate presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, so there probably ought to be grounds other than the “We don’t need a reason, we just need the votes” argument.

* Question: What do you think ought to be the minimal requirements for impeachment of a governor?

* As a bonus question, should any impeachment occur during a criminal investigation, or should the General Assembly allow those investigations to run their course before acting?

By the way, this is not a question about whether Gov. Blagojevich should or should not be hauled before the House and Senate. It’s about the concept.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


Board of Elections site appears to be functioning today *** UPDATED x1 ***

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* After our often heated and quite wonky critique of the State Board of Elections’ website yesterday, some of the problems appear to have been fixed, at least for now. I played with the site this morning and didn’t get any error messages or timeout warnings. That’s a very good thing. They also seem to have cleaned up the site a bit.

Now, if they would just enable tabbed browsing and add RSS feeds to candidate filings, campaign disclosure reports, etc. they’d be well on their way to entering the 21st Century. :)

No website is perfect. This one certainly isn’t (I still haven’t been able to get swf files to play properly here, which led to temporarily replacing that Auto Alliance ad yesterday with a jpg file). But lots of us rely on the Board of Elections’ site every day, often multiple times a day, and that clunky code was driving many of us up the wall, as the volume of comments showed yesterday.

* Anyway, I thought you might like a chance to thank the Board for quickly addressing some of their most egregious problems and perhaps politely suggest ways to make the site even better.

…Adding… C’mon, people. We all whacked them but good yesterday. A kind word and a helpful suggestion is too much to ask?

*** UPDATE *** Well, I may have spoken too soon. A commenter pointed out that the committee search in the campaign disclosure reports is still broken. I checked and the commenter appears to be half right. If you click the “search” button, the search works. If you just hit “return” on your keyboard, you get this result…

Unable to retreive a list of documents for the specified query:Incorrect syntax near ‘'’. Expected ‘!’, ‘(’, NOT, ISABOUT, FORMSOF, STRING, PREFIX_STRING. SQLSTATE=42000

The site is still better than yesterday - by leaps and bounds - but there are some remaining bugs.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


Expensive tastes

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* Mick Dumke has compiled an astonishing list of Chicago judgement and settlement payouts just since the beginning of this year

$15 million (with another $35 million coming from insurers) to settle suits from the 2003 fire in the Cook County Administration building that left six people dead;

$12 million dispersed to victims of the Daley administration’s patronage system;

$11 million to pay off a Millennium Park contractor fired several years ago for not working fast enough;

$13 million so far to victims of abuse under former police Commander Jon Burge;

$2.7 million in January to settle various suits over police misconduct, traffic accidents, and citizens’ “animal loss.”

In case you lost count, that’s $53.7 million just this year. The total judgments and settlements for all of last year was $47 million. In 2006, the total was $49 million. And in 2005 it was $34 million.

Chicago is on a roll, baby, and nothing changes

Sneed has learned Ald. Ed Burke plans to introduce a City Council ordinance demanding the mandatory sterilization of any dog or cat over 6 months old living in Chicago.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


Gloom and doom

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* The problem

[Illinois] State government collected just less than $9 million in horse racing tax revenue last year. That’s down 14 percent from 2006 and only a fraction of the $40-plus million a year collected throughout the 1990s.

* A proposed solution…

It’s actually unclear whether Internet betting is illegal under Illinois law, but tracks aren’t willing to press their luck because a 2000 attorney general opinion noted state law doesn’t expressly authorize it.

Now some lawmakers are trying to help Arlington and other tracks by setting up a licensing system for [advance deposit wagering] vendors, with profit-sharing guidelines to keep more betting money in Illinois and ensure owners, horsemen and the state get their share.

“It’s not something that we love to see, but we have no choice but to get it for our tracks,” said Rep. Bob Molaro, the Chicago Democrat pushing the idea in the House. “We have to do this to survive.”

* This idea has been shot down before, and the horsemen aren’t thrilled with it…

Steve Brubaker of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association said his members worry the new betting system might not bring in new patrons and could let track owners take even more purse money at horsemen’s expense.

* And the proposal is coming at a time of extreme legislative gridlock

At the beginning of the year, Republicans and Democrats alike talked highly of spending $25 billion to fix roads, bridges and schools, as well as put thousands to work.

But as April comes to an end and lawmakers are scheduled to have a state budget done by the end of May, some have seen that optimism diminish.

‘’I don’t feel as good now as when I first came in,'’ state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, said of the prospects of such a plan.

State Rep. Patrick Verschoore, D-Milan, said he felt good in January about the chances to get construction money. But the past several months have brought more infighting among Democrats who control state government and have the most power to shape such a plan.

* And

Illinois won’t have passed a budget by the end of May, state Sen. Dan Rutherford predicted today to a Pontiac audience… No capital-improvements bill will be passed by the General Assembly, he also predicted.

* But there are lots of pressures on lawmakers to at least try and get something done. For instance

The Lawrence County Soil & Water Conservation District closes its doors today, “The district will continue to operate as a Soil & Water Conservation district but will have no staff available to work with landowners,” says Rich Nichols, the executive director of the Associatio of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

Nichols says there are already waiting lists for programs those districts provide, “Which means we anticipate there’ll be quite a bit of federal money returned. It just will not be able to be spend.”

So, your guess is as good as mine. Go ahead an make your guesses in comments.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


We need something better

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* This is yet another good reason to hold a constitutional convention. The completely bungled legislative redistricting language in the current document…

The framers of the 1970 Illinois Constitution thought they had devised a way to force bipartisanship on the contentious issue of redrawing legislative district maps every 10 years. If the governor and General Assembly couldn’t agree on a map, the job would fall to an eight-member commission of four Democrats and four Republicans.

Except it never worked out that way. In the 1981, 1991 and 2001 remap efforts, both parties decided to play “chicken” instead of working out a deal. They allowed a drawing to determine which side would draw the maps.

* As the editorial notes, there is a constitutional amendment in the hopper right now to address this issue…

The amendment, sponsored by James Brosnahan, D-Evergreen Park, would do away with the lottery as a tiebreaker. If the legislature is unable to reach a compromise, the job would go to a special master or masters appointed by the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court and a justice from the other political party.

But why allow the incuments to draw their maps in the first place? Even if this does encourage bipartisan compromise, that means even more incumbent protections. The maps should be drawn by computer, like Iowa does, and we wouldn’t have goofy-looking districts intended to keep people in power.

Look at Iowa’s maps. Now, look at Illinois‘.

* More Con-Con stuff…

* Con Con Considerations: Party Affiliation

* Income tax vote expected

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Impeach, ethics and Campaign 2010

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* We’re not sayin’, we’re just sayin’

Impeachment, rather than recall, would be the better option to pursue if people think that Gov. Rod Blagojevich should be ousted from office, two Democratic state senators said Monday.

Sens. Mike Frerichs of Gifford and Kwame Raoul of Chicago made it clear, though, that they’re not saying the governor ought to be impeached.

“If you have a problem and if it has to do with dereliction of duty, you know, that (impeachment) is the route to take,” Raoul said.

* Meanwhile, the great game continues on the ethics bill

Illinois lawmakers are close to an agreement to outlaw “pay-to-play” politics — an agreement that may include an unusual public vow that the Legislature will override any attempt by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to change the bill.

A Blagojevich spokeswoman hinted on Monday that the governor might, in fact, change the bill by “amendatorily” vetoing it. The governor says it doesn’t go far enough — a stance his critics allege is designed to prevent any reform at all from passing. […]

“I want a public statement from Senate leadership that there will be … an override of any veto of the bill,” said Fritchey, who believes Blagojevich may use his amendatory veto powers to stall the reforms.

Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, the lead Senate negotiator on the issue, confirmed that the negotiations included a “mutual understanding” on how to respond to a gubernatorial veto.

It’s not difficult to understand why Fritchey would want such a public vow. The broken promise on last year’s budget deal has completed poisoned the Statehouse waters, and those who believe that Senate President Emil Jones would just go along with the governor again and not override a veto - which would kill the bill - are well within their rights.

* Speaking of ethics, this press release just landed in my in-box…

A university professor who aced an ethics test has won a legal battle with state officials who wanted him punished for completing the written exam too quickly.

A settlement agreement has been reached between the state and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC) professor, Marvin Zeman… The settlement agreement states that Zeman and Wallis read and understood the material and successfully passed the test when they originally took it in 2006.

What a stupid thing to punish college professors for understanding the ethics materials too well.

* Comptroller Dan Hynes is keeping up the drumbeat

“For a long time, this state has been without effective leadership out of the executive office. Now, at the worst time possible, we have an administration that is retrenched and in hiding. Our deficit is growing, our bills are mounting, our roads are crumbling, hospitals are closing, revenues are disappearing and our governor is hiding,” Hynes said.

* My intern asked me yesterday when the 2010 campaign would kick off. I said it already has. Petition filing for the primary begins in something like 16 months. Hence, the Hynes statewide tour and, possibly, Paul Vallas’ return visit to Chicago

Illinois Democrats are already looking past Gov. Rod Blagojevich and to the future. Paul Vallas, who lost to Blagojevich by a scant 21,000 votes in 2002, is back.

As CBS 2 Political Editor Mike Flannery reports, Vallas looks like he’s getting ready to run again.

A standing ovation greeted Vallas Monday at a City Club luncheon. The former chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools, who now runs the system in New Orleans, used the forum to send the strongest signals yet that he wants to replace Blagojevich as governor of Illinois.

Vallas told the crowd he plans to work in New Orleans only one more year. He said he’s now a commuter, and that he and his wife, Sharon, moved with their children to a home in the southwest suburbs last summer.

He’ll be starting with a very big disadvantage if he waits until next May to begin campaigning and raising the big bucks. There are reports floating around that he wants to the education job if Obama wins the presidency, and this is his way of putting pressure on Obama, who would likely support Alexi Giannoulias for the governor’s job.

* More reform and renewal…

* Vallas re-run would be a mistake

* ‘Fitzgerald would be terminated’

* Witness: Hastert linked to alleged plot to dump Fitzgerald

* Hastert’s Name Comes Up in Rezko Trial

* Hastert Named In Alleged Scheme To Oust Fitzgerald

* Second witness refers to hint of Fitzgerald ouster

* Witness: Rezko said ‘Fitzgerald would be eliminated’

* Rezko Quoted As Saying Prosecutor Would Be Replaced

* Obama to donate funds received from Rezko friend

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Morning Shorts

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

* FEMA turns down Illinois’ plea for disaster aid

The federal government has denied Illinois’ request for assistance for people and businesses in 15 Southern Illinois counties affected by severe flooding last month, state Emergency Management Agency Director Andrew Velasquez III said Monday.

“It’s very disappointing that FEMA failed to recognize the devastating impact this flood had on so many lives in Southern Illinois,” Velasquez said.

* Potholes are so bad that IDOT must pay for outside help with repairs

* NIU president offers 3 options for Cole Hall future

All the options would take about two years to implement. Peters said if state funding is obtained this year, reopening of a renovated Cole Hall could occur in fall 2010.

* Illinois giving colleges $3.5 million for scholarships

* Treasurer secures college funds

* With justices’ OK, voter ID moves ahead

* Neuter news

To wit: Sneed has learned Ald. Ed Burke plans to introduce a City Council ordinance demanding the mandatory sterilization of any dog or cat over 6 months old living in Chicago.

* A Wrigley still in charge– for now

* What Wrigley and Mars might accomplish together

* ‘It’s a little sad,’ but sale won’t hurt Chicago

* Buffett helps unite storied family firms

* Wrigley timeline

- Posted by Kevin Fanning   8 Comments      


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Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

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        * Gas station owners losing patience over tax-hik.....
        * US Sen. Durbin says he's taking Oberweis seriously..
        * District 300 set to pilot new teacher evaluations..
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        * Durbin: Taking Oberweis seriously..


        * Official: 4 children wounded in Chicago drive-by
        * Arrest made in death of Chicago man in Utah
        * Former death row inmate details difficulties
        * Cardinal: Could be last Easter as archbishop
        * Police: 6 people injured in Easter party shooting
        * Video gambling exclusion list prompts questions
        * Chicagoan to run 35th straight Boston Marathon
        * Authorities: Newborn baby found in plastic bag
        * Lawyer: No more appeals for Crundwell
        * Downtown Belleville fountain damaged by car crash

        * Addiction experts: Illinois budget cuts could hurt drug treatment
        * Comptroller Topinka reports $125K in income
        * Bernard Schoenburg: Durbin, Oberweis spar over earmarks, minimum wage
        * Statehouse Insider: It doesn’t always add up in the General Assembly
        * Chicago casino plan draws more support at legislative hearing
        * Video gaming may get its own exclusion list
        * U of I officials seeking to prevent retirement rush
        * U of I asks state legislators to prevent retirement rush; could affect 200 at UIS
        * 2015 tax rates still far from settled
        * Strip club tax brings in much less than expected

        * Census: People are leaving all six Chicago-area counties
        * Trixie and Chad have kids!
        * Quinn administration funds Diana Rauner's nonprofit
        * Why Lenovo's Moto bid is looking smarter
        * Ignoring Shakespeare's butcher, law firm advises how to cut legal bills


        * 4 kids hurt in drive-by on South Side
        * In violent weekend, at least 7 dead, 31 wounded in shootings across Chicago
        * 7 dead, 22 wounded in shootings since Friday evening
        * Chicago man slain in Utah in ‘wrong place at the wrong time’
        * Newborn boy found dead in Northwest Side gangway
        * Six shot at Easter party in suburban Montgomery
        * 4 children injured in South Side drive-by shooting
        * In violent weekend, at least 7 dead, 27 wounded in shootings across Chicago
        * Iowa windmills could blow in energy savings for Chicago area residents
        * Husband, wife — both officers — dead in murder-suicide: police


        * 4 children shot Sunday night in violent Chicago weekend
        * Logan Square residents lament discovery of abandoned baby's body
        * Man in fatal DUI crash was nearly 3 times over the legal limit, prosecutors say
        * Police: Husband and wife -- both officers -- dead in apparent murder-suicide
        * 'Nothing is ever without hope,' ailing George tells Catholics on Easter
        * Man held on $1 million bail in Friday shooting
        * FBI looks for duo who robbed Austin neighborhood bank
        * Man critically injured in crash involving motorcycle, semi
        * Geneva woman killed in motorcycle accident in Kane County


        * Illinois Finally Gets 'No Child Left Behind' Waiver
        * U Of I: Illinois Pension Overhaul Had Costly Mistake
        * Fish fry dinners bring food, community to Catholics during Lent
        * Listen To State Week - April 18, 2014
        * Murray Center Advocates Win Appeals Decision
        * Employment Improves, But Illinois Still Lags U.S.
        * Nine Illinois lawmakers vote to fund Obama library - but only five members in attendance
        * WBEZ's Student Stories
        * Interview: John Tinker & The Landmark Case On Students' Right To Free Speech
        * State Legislation Hints At Marijuana Legalization


        * Our Opinion: Don’t drag feet on drone regulation
        * Bernard Schoenburg: Durbin, Oberweis spar over earmarks, minimum wage
        * Bernard Schoenburg: Durbin, Oberweis spar over earmarks, minimum wage
        * Statehouse Insider: It doesn’t always add up in the General Assembly
        * Statehouse Insider: It doesn’t always add up in the General Assembly
        * Armenta L. Johnson: Advocate for quality education to avoid segregation
        * Catherine Walters: Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault notes anniversary, awareness month
        * Video gaming may get its own exclusion list
        * U of I asks state legislators to prevent retirement rush; could affect 200 at UIS
        * Quinn grants 43 clemency requests


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        * UPDATED: Two dead, three others injured in rural Homer crash
        * Area Calendar 4/21/14
        * Steam leak closes part of Main Street in Urbana
        * Rain, cooler temperatures in Q-C forecast
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        * This week's lane restrictions
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        * Classmates mentor students with autism in Belleville schools


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        * Wishing Buehrle back on Sout’ Side
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        * Governor Quinn Announces Investments to Conserve Lake Michigan Shoreline - Visits Volunteer Beach Clean-up to Announce Investments That Will Support Environmental Education and Stewardship Projects
        * Governor Pat Quinn Takes Clemency Action
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        * Adopt-A-Highway Spring Cleanup Begins Today - Annual Event Honors Earth Day, Tackles Roadside Litter After Harsh Winter
        * Illinois Schools Win No Child Left Behind Waiver - Federal Government Approves Flexibility Needed for Successful Implementation of State Strategies to Improve Student Learning




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